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Tommy Robinson: Contempt case referred to attorney general

October 23, 2018 10:39 AM
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Tommy Robinson: Contempt case referred to attorney general

An allegation of contempt of court against ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson is being referred to the attorney general.

Mr Robinson appeared at the Old Bailey, facing an allegation that he had committed contempt by filming people before a criminal trial.

But within minutes Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC ruled it needed to be referred up for further consideration.

The brief appearance was the latest in a long-running case that began in 2017.

The 35-year-old was released on bail. He appeared under his real name, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

Hundreds of his supporters, and some opponents, gathered outside the court.

Mr Yaxley-Lennon's counsel, Richard Furlong, said the case should be referred to the Attorney General - the government's chief legal adviser, currently Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox.

Judge Hilliard said he was satisfied he had the jurisdiction to hear allegations against Mr Yaxley-Lennon.

But less than 10 minutes into the hearing he confirmed it would be referred up, saying the case was so complex it needed further consideration.

The court heard that in the current setting, lawyers would not be able to cross-examine witnesses.

Judge Hilliard said: "Cross-examination of Mr Yaxley-Lennon would be necessary for a proper examination of the allegations.

Mr Yaxley-Lennon told the 400 or so supporters outside the court after the hearing: "I shouldn't face another trial.

"I've been here three times with a prison bag. I've kissed my kids goodbye three times."

But he welcomed the referral to the attorney general and said he hoped he "makes the right decision."

In May 2017, Mr Yaxley-Lennon filmed four men outside a court, who were later convicted of gang-raping a teenage girl.

The trial was subject to reporting restrictions, and a judge at Canterbury Crown Court gave him a three-month suspended sentence for contempt of court.

In May 2018, he was jailed for potentially prejudicing a court case after broadcasting on social media outside Leeds Crown Court.

He was sentenced to 13 months - 10 months for the contempt of court in Leeds and a further three months for breaching the previous suspended sentence.

Three judges quashed the Leeds ruling - saying the judge should not have commenced contempt proceedings that day - and he was released from prison.

The judges ordered the case be reheard so that the allegations could be fully examined and, after a brief appearance at the Old Bailey in September, the case was adjourned until today.

Contempt of court laws are designed to protect the rule of law, ensure fair trials - and avoid trial by media.

Contempt can be committed by a broad range of people and organisations including the press, jurors, and social media users.

The maximum sentence for contempt of court is two years' imprisonment, but it can also be punished with a fine.


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